The risk of social media platforms being used to violate democracy is addressed by Meta’s Oversight Board. Meta should see to that its platforms are not used to promote political violence, the Board says. It is recommending the management to develop a framework for evaluating its election integrity efforts to prevent its platforms from being used to promote political violence.
The Board has overturned Meta’s original decision to leave up a Facebook video where a Brazilian general calls on people to “hit the streets” and “go to the National Congress and the Supreme Court”.
His call came after Jair Bolsonaro had lost the Brazilian presidential election and sounded like an echo of how social media was used to get people to break into the US Capitol trying to stop the confirmation of that Joe Biden had won the presidential election.
The Board recommends that Meta:
- Develop a framework for evaluating its election integrity efforts. This includes creating and sharing metrics for successful election integrity efforts, including those related to Meta’s enforcement of its content policies and its approach to ads.
- Clarify in its Transparency Center that, in addition to the Crisis Policy Protocol, the company runs other protocols in its attempt to prevent and address potential risk of harm arising in electoral contexts or other high-risk events.
On January 8, Bolsonaro supporters broke into the National Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential offices located in the “Three Powers Plaza” in Brasília. Not until the following day, Meta declared the January 8 rioting a “violating event” under its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy and said it would remove “content that supports or praises these actions.”
The Board says it is deeply concerned that despite the civil unrest in Brazil at the time the content was posted, and the widespread proliferation of similar content in the weeks and months ahead of the January 8 riots, Meta’s content moderators repeatedly assessed this content as non-violating and failed to escalate it for further review.
“In addition, when the Board asked Meta for information on specific election-related claims on its platforms before, during, and after the Brazilian elections, the company explained that it does not have data on the prevalence of such claims.”
“The content in this case was finally removed more than two weeks later, by which point the violating event it called had already occurred, and only after the Board brought the case to Meta’s attention.”
“In response to a question from the Board, Meta said that it does not adopt any particular metrics for measuring the success of its election integrity efforts generally.” Therefore, the Board finds that Meta should develop a framework for evaluating the company’s election integrity efforts, and for public reporting on the subject.
“This aims to provide the company with relevant data to improve its content moderation system as a whole and to decide how best to employ its resources in electoral contexts. Without this kind of information, neither the Board nor the public can evaluate the effectiveness of Meta’s election integrity efforts more broadly.”
“This case raises concerns around the effectiveness of Meta’s election integrity efforts in the context of Brazil’s 2022 General Election, and elsewhere. While challenging the integrity of elections is generally considered protected speech, in some circumstances widespread claims which attempt to undermine elections can lead to violence”, the Board says.
“In this case, the speaker’s intent, the content of the speech and its reach, as well as the likelihood of imminent harm resulting in the political context of Brazil at the time, all justified removing the post.”
The Board says that for a post to violate Meta’s rules on calling for forcible entry into high-risk locations, the location must be considered “high-risk,” and it must be situated in an area or vicinity that is separately designated as a “temporary high-risk location.” “As the post was an unambiguous call to forcibly enter government buildings situated in the Three Powers Plaza in Brasília (“high-risk locations” situated in a “temporary high-risk location,” Brazil), Meta’s initial decisions to leave this content up during a time of heightened political violence represented a clear departure from its own rules.”